A better world begins with women

August 22, 2017

By Sheila Oparaocha

My father is from Nigeria. In 1967, a terrible civil war broke out in his region. Biafra wanted to proclaim it independence, to which the Nigerian state reacted with bloody slaughter and systematic starvation. Millions of Biafrans died, and images of malnourished children shocked the world.

My father fled to Zambia where he was received with open arms. He was given the same opportunities as native Zambians to study, build a future, earn money and establish a family. I was born there, living proof of the positive impact that you can have with the right policies. I saw with my own eyes what those policies meant for our entire family and other refugees in Zambia.

When I was at a crossroads in my career, I only had one question on my mind: what can I do to give back, to give others a better life as well? I found my answer at ENERGIA, a large informal network that uses energy for women’s economic empowerment and as a way to create greater gender equality in developing countries.

Women as positive leaders

I have been connected to ENERGIA since 1999 and still do my work with passion. Since March 2016, the programme is hosted by Hivos, and I work from their global office in The Hague. In the meantime, we have helped 4,000 women to set up their own businesses. Through them, over 2 million people have access to energy, which in turn enables them to build a better life and a stronger community.

The women we support have become positive leaders in their families, companies and communities. It is with and through them that significant change begins. That’s why I say, “To improve the world, start with a woman”.